My first real job out of college was working for Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Over four years, I worked at three different locations, as Peter and I moved from California to Minnesota (where Peter attended graduate school) and then back to the San Diego area. I started as a part-time employee and ended as an assistant manager.
People often imagine that working at a bookstore is a wonderfully cerebral job, where employees stand around drinking coffee and talking about books all day. The reality is that, as with most retail work, bookstore employees work hard at strange hours for minimal pay. My feet and legs never hurt so much as my first two weeks of working retail.
Working retail ruined the affection I had previously had for the December holidays. During a season of hope and generosity, shoppers often seemed to be at their worst, surly and unreasonable. It felt as though the cheerfulness of the season was nothing but a façade, a mask that slipped out of place the moment people entered the store.
I still don’t like to be in stores in December. The advent of internet shopping has meant that I rarely need to shop in person anymore, and I certainly don’t need to brave the crowds of a shopping mall.
My hope for each of us this holiday season is that we approach this time with integrity. Retail workers and wait staff deserve people’s best behavior, not worst. Service workers deserve the same generosity of spirit that is offered to friends and family.
May the joy of the holidays be yours, and may your cheerfulness be genuine, not a mask you put on for some and take off for others.
Bright blessings, Sharon